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Dixville Peak

Length: 7.6 miles out-and-back

Difficulty (click for info): Hard

Elevation Gain: 2000 feet (+300 feet on return)

Rating (click for info): 8/10

Elevation: 3490'

Prominence: 900'

Driving Directions:
Trailhead and parking area are on Rt. 26 in Dixville, NH. Park at a small pull-off on the south side of the road, 3.3 miles east of Diamond Pond Road to Coleman State Park and 0.6 miles west of the entrance to the former Balsams Resort. There is a red sign on a tree for Table Rock Trail. Click here for a Google map.

About the Hike:
Just as Sandwich Dome is the highest sub-4000-foot mountain in New Hampshire, Dixville Peak is the runner-up to the 3500-footers, being the 106th highest NH mountain. Unlike Sandwich Dome, which is protected in the federally-designated Sandwich Range Wilderness, Dixville Peak was in recent years developed for a wind farm. The Granite Reliable Wind Farm, opened in 2011, has seven wind turbines placed across Dixville Peak, with many others on nearby Mt. Kelsey, Owlhead Mountain, and Fishbrook Ridge. The summit, which was once forested over and the site of a fire tower, has now been blasted away to make room for one of the turbines. Extensive mountain views hikers can find from the access roads are juxtaposed with the unappealing, mechanized nature of the mountain itself. Access to the summit is a bit unclear now that the Cohos Trail (northern NH's long-distance hiking trail) was rerouted to avoid the summit after the wind turbines were installed. For obvious reasons, it's not exactly a choice destination for hikers, but if you can look past the developed environment at the top, there are some really fantastic views to be seen. In addition, the journey to the peak is full of scenic delights, including the famously terrifying perch of Table Rock, which has striking views of Dixville Notch, and Mt. Gloriette, the location of the abandoned Balsams Wilderness Ski Area.

Your hike begins from a small pull-off on Rt. 26, not far from the former Balsams Resort, which used to be one of four grand hotels in New Hampshire. Start out on the Table Rock Trail, marked with a red sign. The trail begins climbing right away, first making a switchback to the right, then climbing straight up at an increasing grade. After 0.2 miles, the trail reaches the top of a sharp and steep switchback, then continues directly uphill. The trail is quite steep for a while, making use of many rock steps. In another 0.2 miles, the trail drifts into a small valley around a brook. There are soon small cliffs visible off to the right in the scenic northern forest. The trail moderates as you continue up for a little over 0.3 miles more. You have a nice flat reprieve by the time you reach the first trail junction. Mt. Gloriette Trail, the Cohos Trail southbound, appears on your right, while Table Rock Trail, now the Cohos Trail northbound, continues ahead. To reach Dixville Peak, you will need to take the Gloriette Trail, but to make a quick stop at Table Rock, continue straight. In a few yards, look for an unmarked trail dropping steeply down over rocks to your left. Follow this a short distance down and then back up to the craggy ledges of Table Rock. It is very narrow, less than six feet wide as you move out onto the rock. Near the woods, there are many small trees growing, and the view is limited. Continuing out, the rock rises to a small flat area, where you can see most of the view. This is a good, safe place to enjoy the views if you do not wish to risk walking out further. There are many large cracks in the cliff. Ahead, the rock drops a few feet, narrows more, and the surface turns to dirt. The view is a bit more open here. Beyond this area is the most jagged, narrow section of the rock, which quickly decreases in width. There are very close-up views across the notch in both directions. To the west, looking out the notch, Vermont is visible, with its prominent Monadnock Mountain. Straight ahead and far below is the former Balsams Resort. Next to the Balsams is Lake Gloriette. Above it is small, cliffy Mt. Abeniki. To the north, Table Rock points directly to Sanguinary Mountain, with Cave Mountain peeking above. To the west is Rice Mountain, and further down is Black Mountain. On your side of the notch are more impressive cliffs. For a more scenic hike with Table Rock as the final destination, see Three Brothers Trail.

To continue your hike to Dixville Peak, return to the junction with Mt. Gloriette Trail and start hiking down that trail. You will now follow a long, curving northern ridge over Mt. Gloriette to reach your destination. The trail makes use of an overgrown, grassy road for the hike to Gloriette. The pathway is much more obscure than the Table Rock Trail, because of diminished use. Brush and tall grass hide the trail as you travel up to the hill behind Table Rock. Soon the old road becomes more obvious and you can easily follow the wide corridor in the forest. The trail runs mostly flat across the top of the ridge for 0.15 miles, then swings right and descends just a bit off to the northwestern side. The trail runs mostly flat with a few downgrades along the side of the ridge for the next half-mile. In spring, this section can pool with water and become very muddy. At the end of this section, the trail makes a left turn, climbs a short distance, then swings back to the right, passing near a minor col on the ridge. You now climb through open, ferny glades toward Mt. Gloriette. In 0.2 miles, the trail comes out into the open on the Connecticut ski trail, one of the slopes in the abandoned Balsams Wilderness Ski Resort. Turn uphill and walk up the ski trail for the last 0.2 miles to the top of the ski area, with increasing views to the north and west. You will find good views over the trails from the top. Walk by a ski lift on your right, then pass a ski patrol hut on your left followed by another ski lift on the right. You can find the most open views by walking up to the ski lifts.

Look for yellow blazes as you cross a large clearing just past the highest point, and stay to the leftmost ski trail as you start heading down. As the ski trail narrows, fork left into the woods at a Cohos Trail sign and and arrow pointing "to Dixville Peak". The trail now follows an old service road as it descends off the insignificant summit of Mt. Gloriette. The trail is flat for a while, then descends slowly through more areas that may be muddy or flooded, reaching the col with the main mass of Dixville Peak in 0.4 miles. Walk past a rope blocking off vehicles from the hiking trail and come out onto a large ATV trail. Bear left, continuing to follow the Cohos Trail as it joins the ATV trail. The trail climbs briefly, then makes a short descent, then resumes climbing at a much steeper grade. In 0.3 miles from the col, the Cohos Trail diverges off the ATV trail and into the woods to the right. Continue straight on the ATV trail, which continues to be steep and very rocky. In a quarter mile, the ATV trail swings right and heads across a long, flat section. At the beginning of this area, look to your left for an overgrown path with an orange fence across it and a sign prohibiting snowmobiles. You can eventually reach the summit by staying on the ATV trail, but by turning left and following this route, you can take a shortcut to the wind turbine access road and reach the summit in a much shorter distance. The way is grown-in with grass and small spruce trees in some places, but the path is easy to follow. In just over 0.1 miles, you will come out to the base of one of the wind turbines. The structure has monolithic stature from up close and the spinning blades over your head can be frightening. Walk through the clearing and join the access road, heading gradually uphill. As you walk up the road, wide views open from the northwest to the east. The various mountains in Pittsburg are visible over the nearby ones seen earlier from Table Rock. On a clear day, you can see well into Canada. Off to the northeast, many of New England's hundred highest peaks can be seen off in Maine, along with the Rangeley High Peaks. After passing one other turbine, you will swing to the right and arrive at the summit clearing in 0.4 miles, where a third turbine is located. The highest point is located on a ledge across the clearing. From there, you can see over the treetops to the west into Vermont.


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